By: Attorney Ruby Powers
After Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be implementing a new “Zero Tolerance Policy,” stories began surfacing about family separation. Under the new policy, all immigrants found to have crossed the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted, a practice that rarely occurred before the policy was announced.
In the past weeks, the news has highlighted how the policy has led to widespread family separation on our border. Texas, specifically, has recently been criticized for being complicit, being one of the many states housing immigrants in detention centers.
More recently, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced there was a proposal to open a detention center for children in the City of Houston. On June 19, Mayor Turner held a joint press conference with the Chief of Police Art Acevedo and other community activists, such as State Senator Sylvia Garcia. During the press conference, Mayor Turner expressed his opposition to the proposed site and explained the location of the proposed detention center was meant to serve the homeless community.
To many Houstonians, downtown Houston houses the city’s sports complexes like the Dynamo Stadium and the Toyota Center as well as the home to the 2017 World Champions Houston Astros. Among the many parks, restaurants, and bars that populate the areas around the centers that make up downtown Houston, businesses also acknowledge the city’s homeless problems.
According to Mayor Turner’s proposition, the site of the planned detention center was meant to serve as a rehabilitation center that could have helped the city’s homeless and mentally ill population. With this center, business and restaurants alike could have seen a reduction in the city’s homeless population that many cite as a deterrent for the public to explore downtown Houston.
Houston has often been a hub where cultures and languages could intermingle and flourish. As one of the largest cities of the country and the most diverse in America, Houston has been seen as an attractive city to start or grow a business. This public image of Houston may not stand if instead, it becomes home to one of the detention centers that house children.
This center could have the same effect that the controversial SB4 bill had for Texas. After Texas was associated as a supporter of this controversial policy, associations like the American Immigration Lawyers Association decided to cancel their scheduled events in Texas and relocate to another state, costing the host city thousands of dollars in hotel fees and conference revenue. The policy that separates families is not only reprehensible, it could impact Houston’s prosperity.
While President Trump may blame the Democratic party for the ineptitude of his own administration, as Mayor Turner stated in a press conference, “this issue is beyond party. This issue is a humanitarian issue that is being treated as a political issue.”
Due to public pressure, as of June 20, President Trump issued an executive order to stop family separation but the impact of that order is uncertain.
Ruby L. Powers is an immigration attorney and owns her own Houston-based firm, Powers Law Group P.C.
Published by: Houston Business Journal